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Designing for Wellness

10/06/2021

Studio Victoria

6 minutes

In a previous article, Building for well-being, we explored how the Construction Industry can improve the quality of life for occupants as we learn that the built environment can influence and enhance the health and well-being of others. In this article, we dive into how design plays an essential role in well-being as we explore the following questions: Why is Wellness Design important? and How can designers implement Wellness into the interior of spaces? Keep reading to find how you can help you to #ONEUPYOURBUSINESS!

WHY IS WELLNESS DESIGN IMPORTANT?

Design plays an important role when it comes to health with a report from the [](https://www.instituteofhealthequity.org/about-us/the-institute-of-health-equity/our-current-work/collaborating-with-the-health-foundation-"Institute of Health Equity") showcasing that the life expectancy in the United Kingdom has stopped increasing along with health inequality rising. In 2010, the UK Government commissioned Professor Sir Michael Marmot to review health inequalities across England. He reported that the circumstances of our ages, where we were born, live, work, and grow up; all impact our health.

In 2018, the 'Build Well to Live Well' report by the Global Wellness Institute stated that "the way our homes have been built in the last century is reinforcing lifestyles that make us sick, stressed, alienated, and unhappy." highlighting how the built environment contributes to polluted air, stress, poor diets, loneliness, alienation and a lack of exercise. A Wellness Design hopes to tackle these issues and focus on creating positive spaces that can reduce stress and contribute to good physical health.

HOW CAN DESIGNERS IMPLEMENT WELLNESS INTO THE INTERIOR OF SPACES?

Subsequently, designing for Wellness can improve everyday life for people by boosting productivity, encouraging healthy lifestyles and creating spaces that support community to help people live long, happy lives.

On your next project, whether you are designing for a communal area, a living area or a workplace office, here are seven key factors that you can consider to incorporate Wellness:

AIR

In the United Kingdom, the cities: Glasgow, London, Leeds and Manchester all have very significant high levels of Particulate Matter (PM). Living in highly polluted areas can have significant risks to your health. Scientists have linked breathing in 'dirty air' to causes such as asthma, diabetes, liver damage, kidney damage and cancer. To express even further how air pollution is damaging to humans, in 2017, the European Commission" gave a final warning to the UK about its declining air quality, demanding that within [two months to comply with the air pollution limits for nitrogen dioxide](https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/feb/15/european-commission-issues-final-warning-to-uk-over-air-pollution-breaches "two months to comply with the air pollution limits for nitrogen dioxide" (NO2) or be taken to court.

With people in the UK spending only 8% of their time outside, it's extremely important that the quality of air indoors is greater since that's where we spend most of our time. Below we outline how we can design to reduce indoor air pollution:

  • Avoiding wall-to-wall carpeting can help the space be cleaned more efficiently, and having easy to reach crevices can prevent the build-up of dirt and dust. Choosing to design with hardwood flooring instead of carpet can maintain the air quality
  • Activities like installing carpets, making a space smell nice with air fresheners, painting with household paints and cooking with charcoal can cause VOC-based pollution. Designing spaces that use low-VOC materials is a great way to reduce the off-gassing of VOCs to limit people coming into contact with harmful, harsh chemicals
  • Implementing a built-in air purifying system can help reduce dust particles and airborne pollen. Air purifiers are a great way to clean the air, especially if those using the spaces will be spending most of their time indoors

WATER

Did you know that water makes up 60% of the human body? Staying hydrated is crucial to keep the body functioning and so implementing designs to encourage the intake of water can have substantial health benefits.

  • Installation of water stations and touchless faucets in spaces to encourage people to stay hydrated and drink more water
  • Add filters to water supplies to improve the quality and taste of water. Adding a filter to shower systems can also decrease certain chemicals such as chlorine coming into contact with skin reducing skin damage and dryness
  • Inserting grab bars into shower spaces can also make the bathroom more accessible to those with disabilities; it will also reduce accidents and injuries as people can grip onto the rails when the surfaces become wet and slippery

LIGHT

Our circadian rhythm helps keep our internal body clock in check, enabling us to stay alert in the mornings and feel tired by night (the sleep-wake cycle). However, light plays an essential part in how our body feels throughout the day. It can suppress the body's melatonin production (a hormone helping the sleep-wake cycle), making our circadian rhythm out of whack and affecting our sleep quality. Quality sleep is vital since without it can pose a range of serious health concerns and so here are some design ideas to help keep the body's circadian rhythm in check:

  • Install windows or extend the length of existing windows to allow more natural light to seep into the building as natural light can boost productivity and mood
  • Design the placement of furniture around the natural lighting and outdoor views and consider automatic solar shades that will adjust throughout the day in correlation to the sun changing the position to reduce glare and heat
  • Incorporate colour temperature changing light bulbs and adjustable light fittings within the building to prevent eye strain, set the lighting the suits the individual's needs and help the body's circadian rhythm

COMFORT

Since we are among an ageing population with 60% of total household growth in England coming from those aged 65 or over, it's important to consider comfort for the elderly.

  • Design areas that encourage mentally stimulating activities such as reading since studies have shown that brain exercise activities such as reading slowed down the rates of memory decline in the elderly
  • Regardless if it's a home or office space, it's also worth designing spaces that promote productivity and limit distractions. To do this, you can incorporate quiet and loud zones, so depending on the activity, everyone can select the area that is best suited for them
  • Make sure to create spaces where everyone can have access to, for instance, making entrances and pathways suitable for wheelchair access and inserting railings and grip bars in rooms where people may struggle accessing
  • Furniture such as standing desks can also promote activity and reduce long periods of sitting in the same place

MIND

In the above section, we mentioned creating spaces that boost productivity and limit distraction as it is a great way to keep the mind active. However, relaxing and allowing the mind to switch off is equally important.

To create comfortable atmospheres, you can build a robust indoor-outdoor connection using a biophilic design. Likewise, using a biophilic method can help to bring the outdoors inside. The International Well-Building Institute breaks down three steps in how you can achieve this:

  1. Nature incorporation: Place nature into the environment by using lighting, space layout and environmental elements
  2. Pattern incorporation: implement patterns of nature into the design
  3. Nature interaction: provide people with the ability for sufficient human-nature interactions

NOURISHMENT

From making sure there's plenty of room and storage space in the kitchen to appropriate seating in a dining area, there's plenty of behavioural cues and encouragement of healthy eating you can provide to encourage people to stay nourished:

  • An outdoor space to advocate for getting fresh air and exercise and take up gardening to grow organic fruit and vegetables
  • A dedicated spot for fruit and vegetables such as pull out shelves to make nutritional food easily accessible and provide a cue that reminds people to eat healthy foods
  • Plenty of kitchen spaces to prepare meals and store cooking ingredients and kitchen equipment to promote the habit of cooking homemade meals
  • Include visual cues likes signage to remind people of the healthy options and alternatives available to encourage healthier eating habits and choices

FITNESS

Exercising daily is essential if you want to remain fit and healthy as it can improve your muscle strength, increase your energy levels, help you get good quality sleep, and reduce your risk of chronic disease. Below are ways in which design can influence maintaining fitness:

  • Creating a workout space or room makes it easier to work out and get exercise, especially if you don't have access to a gym or a back garden. Storage spaces can also be helpful when it comes to storing athletic equipment
  • An area for bicycle storage (this could be in the garage or shed) to promote cycling
  • Making area's attractive to exercise with art, music and lighting, so people get an incentive to use staircases instead of lifts

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